By Gabriela Carroll
After school sports seasons were canceled, and with most pro leagues not currently playing, the fate of this summer’s youth sports is up in the air as well. Many East End youth sports organizations have built multiple contingency plans depending on when they can resume, while some have canceled completely.
The Hamptons Youth Athletic League runs a summer basketball league in Westhampton that usually starts in early July and runs until the end of August. League president Linda DiCapua said that since basketball can’t be played with masks on or while social distancing, they will wait until phase four of reopening to start their summer programming.
“Normally we would start dividing or drafting our teams at the end of June,” DiCapua said. “We usually start at the beginning of July, and our games are usually outside at Westhampton Court, the outside courts, but for official games, we have officials that come out and we play at six o’clock and seven o’clock at night. That program is sort of on hold.”
If New York reaches phase four in July, DiCapua said the league will resume immediately and play one game per week. But if they can’t play until late July or August, Hamptons Youth Athletic League will play two games per week to get in the full eight game season.
This season, DiCapua is switching to a digital registration model, to make returning to play easier. Hamptons Youth Athletic League in the past required participants to send in paper registration forms, but DiCapua said the league hopes to start as soon as they’re allowed, which is easier with a digital system, as opposed to waiting for the post office.
East End Elite, also known as E3, is a lacrosse club based in Westhampton. Their teams usually travel throughout the summer to tournaments across the East Coast. This season, founder Drew Peters decided to cut all travel outside Long Island.
“Our thought process was what’s going to be the safest, most appropriate measure to take for our entire program and everybody involved,” Peters said. “In the literature that’s been put out, it’s been suggested to stay within your communities and not go to different states.”
Cutting off travel makes E3 an easier financial commitment for families that may be experiencing financial insecurity because of the pandemic. Hotel and gas expenses make up a large part of the cost of being on a travel sports team. With every game and tournament on Long Island, each competition becomes a day trip, making hotel stays unnecessary, and cutting down on the long drives.
If the tournaments E3 was supposed to attend this summer are officially canceled, the tournaments will give credit to the teams for next year’s tournament, and Peters said he is trying to trickle those credits down to the specific players. If most of next year’s tournaments are credited, E3 will have fewer expenses, according to Peters, helping them offset the financial impacts of the pandemic.
“The way we run and operate travel, it’s paid out for the year probably by January, so everything’s been paid for,” Peters said. “In the event tournaments don’t run, basically what happens is they do credits, so they’ll credit you and your team and how many teams you have in there for the following year. So you’re not getting the money back, but you’re also not losing it.”
Lacrosse is an easier sport to social distance while playing, according to Peters. Once groups of 10 can come together to play, nine team members and a coach can come together and work on skills more than 6 feet apart. Peters also plans to host shorter practices, likely around an hour as opposed to two, because of the exposure risk and the smaller group.
“If things take a positive miraculous turn and that’s an avenue we can go and you can get back into small sided, offense vs. defense, then that’s something we’ll take into consideration,” Peters said. “But it seems like for right now it’s gonna be more skill-based, where you can appropriately place the players in a far enough capacity where they’re going to be even more than 6 feet apart and you can do a lot of lacrosse skills that way.”
Both organizations have seen a lot of community interest in resuming their season. DiCapua said she sent an email to families asking if there was interest in a season, and she got a lot of positive feedback. Though she doesn’t have official sign-up numbers, DiCapua said she doesn’t think there will be a large drop-off from the previous summers.
Peters similarly believes there will be some families concerned about safety that will not play this summer, but said his son, who also plays for E3, is extremely eager to return, and hopes they can find a way for the kids to play safely.
“I do think that you have parents that want our kids to be out there playing on the field,” Peters said. “But as a parent, we want our kids to do that in a safe way, and if there’s not a safe way, and there’s not a proper ordinance put in place, then I think no parents want to put their kid in an unsafe situation. I’ve also heard from parents that are saying they’re just not sure how this summer’s going to shake out.”